Written by: Portrait Photo Of Chad M. Prentice Chad M. Prentice

Car accidents occur every day, and are a common sight along California’s roadways. In the best of circumstances, they may only involve some minor damage or slight injury. But in the worst cases, catastrophic injuries and fatalities are the result.

Traffic deaths across the country have continued to rise. In California, over 3,000 deaths result from traffic accidents every year. If this should happen to someone you love, you will most certainly want to seek legal advice to help you proceed while you grieve.

Negligence behind the wheel is often to blame for a loved one’s death on the road. In California, traffic deaths happen as a result of many negligent causes, from speeding to distracted driving.

Photo of an Accident Scene

The Biggest Causes of Traffic Deaths in California

Car accidents in California can be attributed to many causes, though some are more prevalent than others.

Distracted Driving

Technology makes it easy to do practically anything with a cell phone. While many new vehicles on the road come with technology that enables drivers to send texts or emails and make calls without using their hands, people still use their devices. Additionally, distracted driving can involve eating, applying makeup, or rummaging for other objects in the car.

While regulations may exist in the state of California to prevent distracted driving, there are always those who choose to ignore them. As a result, many traffic accidents occur due to distractions.


Speeding is another major contributor to traffic fatalities in California. Higher speeds result in more serious accidents because reaction time is reduced as well as the overall stopping distance of the vehicle. With higher speeds, the force of impact is much higher and all too often, leads to deadly motor vehicle crashes.

Impaired Driving

An alcohol-impaired driver puts everyone on the road in extreme danger. As common as alcohol-impaired driving is in causing traffic fatalities, drug-impaired driving is also rampant.

Alcohol impairment in California means that a driver has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. In the U.S., a death caused by impaired driving occurs every 50 minutes. Both alcohol and drugs, which include legal prescriptions and illegal drugs, can cause reduced reaction time and loss of attention, making them major factors in traffic accidents.

Careless Driving

Careless driving is another cause of fatal car accidents. Failure to obey traffic laws can lead to severe injuries or fatalities on the road. If you see a negligent driver while on the road, try to give yourself plenty of space between them to react quickly if needed.

Failure to stay in the proper lane is one of the most common causes of traffic fatalities in Southern California. This is usually something that occurs with speeding, distracted driving, or driving under the influence.

Failure to yield the right of way is another one of the negligent behaviors commonly found on the roads of California. Every driver has a duty to yield the right of way to bicyclists, pedestrians, and other vehicles. Making a left-hand turn into oncoming traffic is a common cause of fatal accidents.

Another aspect of careless driving is improper turning. This increases the risk for fatal crashes, such as ignoring a sign that says “No Turn on Red” or making a U-turn in a part of the road where it is not authorized. Failure to signal also contributes here as a negligent driver might make an unexpected maneuver that no one else on the road can anticipate.

Failure to obey stop signs, traffic signals, and traffic laws contributes to fatal accidents. A driver is negligent when they violate these rules of the road. If someone you love was involved in a traffic fatality caused by someone else’s negligence, you should seek counsel from law offices in Southern California for a wrongful death claim.

Photo of a Road Accident Scene

California Traffic Fatality Statistics

Everyone on the road should be focused on traffic safety. Sadly, that isn’t always the case. With more drivers on the roadways, everyone has a greater chance of getting into a car accident.

Across the nation, traffic deaths increased by 1.6% from 2019 to 2020, with the total number of fatalities at 36,680. Data available for the first half of 2021 reveals that fatalities from a collision were just over 20,000, an increase of 18.4% from the first half of 2020.

Looking deeper at these statistics for fatal crashes, 3,563 were in California. This represents 9 deaths per 100,000 of the population. Car occupants rather than drivers made up 35% of those deaths, while pedestrians constituted 25% of the fatalities. More than 1,000 children were victims, while nearly 5,000 were motorcycle fatalities.  There were over 6,000 pedestrian victims and over 850 bicycle deaths.

The only other state that had more deaths than California in 2019 was Texas. Still, California has the largest population of any state and having the equivalent of 10 people per day dying in deadly car crashes adds up. These numbers do not include all traffic accidents, only the ones resulting in deaths. As any car accident can lead to severe or catastrophic injuries, these numbers should be a reminder to be vigilant and stay safe while driving.

Compensations Available in Wrongful Death Cases

In California, if you have lost a loved one in a car crash caused by negligent behavior, such as drunk driving, you should hire an attorney to help you file a lawsuit. Family members that are permitted to file a claim include surviving spouses, children, domestic partners, stepchildren that were dependent on the decedent, and grandchildren in certain cases.

Since the intricacies of a wrongful death settlement can be tricky, it’s always wise to speak with a lawyer. Family members of victims lost in a traffic accident caused by a negligent person should never suffer the consequences. It’s sudden and shocking, and while you grieve, you’re stuck trying to pay for a proper funeral, cover medical bills, emergency response costs, and other fees.

As a surviving family member, you will need to seriously consider agreeing to a wrongful death settlement from the insurance company. While grieving, many people don’t realize how much burial and funeral expenses are, nor do they consider the amount of income their loved one would have continued to bring home. There’s also the matter of pain and suffering as well as compensation for the loss of their companionship.

You’ll want to be sure that the settlement amount you are offered is enough to cover those elements. Often, a survival cause of action accompanies a wrongful death suit. Damages in claims for car accidents in California involving wrongful death are intended to compensate the heirs.

With settlements, you can be awarded a lump sum payment, meaning you receive it all at once. It can also be arranged as a structured settlement, with payments that are made over time.  

These settlements will take both economic and non-economic losses into account. Additionally, the amount will be adjusted based on the life expectancy of your loved one at the time of their wrongful death. As such, you may receive compensation for the financial support your loved one would have contributed during the rest of their natural lifetime, the loss of benefits, as well as funeral and burial expenses.

With non-economic damages, you can be compensated for the loss of protection, affection, moral support, companionship, sexual relations, child support, the loss of training and guidance. Thanks to more recent laws, a plaintiff in a wrongful death suit can also obtain damages for their lost loved one’s pain, suffering, or disfigurement prior to their passing.

In wrongful death cases, there is no fixed standard for the amount of non-economic damages. A jury is permitted to award any reasonable amount based on the evidence presented. However, non-economic damages in California wrongful death suits may not include grief, sorrow, or pain and suffering from the loss of a loved one.

Photo of Road Accident

When to Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer

The California Highway Patrol is always busy trying to uphold traffic safety. Despite their best efforts, car accidents in California continue to be on the rise. Drivers killed in a car accident caused by the negligent actions of other drivers are dearly missed by their loved ones. However, a wrongful death attorney is the first person you should contact if you are in this situation.Contact the law offices of Maho | Prentice, LLP if your loved one lost their life in a car accident. You need a wrongful death lawyer who will make it a top priority to pursue damages against the driver whose negligent acts turned your entire world upside down.

By Maho | Prentice, LLP Attorneys at Law on April 3, 2023